A Life Less Ordinary (1997)
Gabriel Works in Mysterious Ways
This is Gabriel. Get me God
What happens when you take a romantic comedy crime caper and give it to a director who had made his name on a couple of dark, quirky crime comedies? You get "A Life Less Ordinary" and unfortunately it doesn't work, the humorous chaos of the story doesn't gel with director Danny Boyle's style making it a movie which is one thing trying to be something it isn't. It's still entertaining and by no means terrible but for me this amusing comedy of romance and kidnapping could have been so much funnier in the hands of another director happy to go with the laughs instead of try to find the quirky all the time.
With the state of relationships worrying God he orders Gabriel (Dan Hedaya) to get a handle on things and so Gabriel sends down angels O'Reilly (Holly Hunter) and Jackson (Delroy Lindo) to intervene and bring two young people together. Those young people are recently fired and dumped cleaner Robert Lewis (Ewan McGregor - Brassed Off) and spoilt rich girl Celine Naville (Cameron Diaz - My Best Friend's Wedding) who is the daughter of the man who is responsible for Robert losing his job. One thing leads to another and somehow Robert finds himself kidnapping Celine but with no idea how to be a kidnapper Celine ends up helping him out bringing them closer together.
For me John Hodge's story almost feels like a homage to old Hollywood from this romantic comedy crime caper through to angels being sent down to intervene in a couple of lives. And I really like the story, the amusement of Robert kidnapping Celine and then Celine basically mentoring him in what he should do and how he should be acting is simple but fun. It is also fun in the way they inevitably fall in love but because they keep on arguing and over complicating things it doesn't bode well. It may all be quite obvious but there is something simply enjoyable about a hostage helping her kidnapper and basically becoming a couple of criminals. Add to that the angels who act in a curious manner in order to try and bring Robert and Celine together and for me you have a classic romantic comedy crime caper.
But here is where things go wrong for me because having made his name off of the darkly funny "Shallow Grave" and "Trainspotting" Danny Boyle was not who I would have had direct. He tries to turn this crime caper into something darker and quirkier than it is and it doesn't gel, in fact it often misfires by trying to be too snappy or quirky. That doesn't mean it isn't entertaining, there are some brilliant moments of dark humour but more often than not it is the simple humour which works better rather than when it is trying to be different.
As for the acting well again I wouldn't have cast Ewan McGregor as Robert, he may be more intune with Danny Boyles style but his look and way of reacting is not intune with the simple comedy. On the other hand Cameron Diaz as Celine is more intune with the simple comedy yet not with Boyle's quirkier elements. It makes it very awkward although thankfully Delroy Lindo and Holly Hunter are spot on as are strange angels sent down to intervene.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "A Life Less Ordinary" is entertaining it doesn't gel and that is for me down to what is essentially a classic romantic comedy crime caper trying to be turned into something darker and quirkier. It does make it different to a lot of movies but for me it doesn't make it better.
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